Peace Is the Goal (#207)
20 January 2006
Charlie's IEP meeting is schedule for next week and I have been preparing by consulting our consultant and Charlie's teacher; gathering reports from his speech therapists, occupational therapist, and verbal behavior therapist; reading a lot of books and websites. After the tumult and uncertainty of Charlie's school placement last year, it is exciting to plan programs and goals and think about how far we can help Charlie to advance in his learning.
Charlie's programs include academic ones like reading and writing; verbal programs like learning the sounds the letters make (vs. what a letter sounds like) and verbal imitation; and social programs like peer interactions, greetings, and turn-taking. At home, he has another reading program and several verbal programs, and is learning to use his computer and to follow his activity schedule. And everyone is always working on strengthening Charlie's play skills. It often seems to me that every other toy known to 21st-century humankind contains little plastic pieces--Legos, Lite Brite pegs, K'nex, any board game's pieces--that have excellent potential to provoke stims in Charlie, who needs some gentle and straightforward nudges to keep building or connecting the pieces.
But, even more than any ability to spell or write or other academic skill, I chart Charlie's growth by the open, attentive, and very young look on his face. That look first came to his face in the first week of December when he started attending his new school.
Charlie's teacher has noted that he is as peaceful and happy for almost all of the school day as his verbal behavior therapist noted yesterday. His face has become the weather-vane of my days. When I see Charlie looking relaxed and his great brown eyes big as ever, I know that I can try out an extra request: "Coat and hat on the chair and shoes in the kitchen and the bathroom, then a snack!"
But when the big-eyed look disppears and his mouth is set, it is time for preparedness. Then I hear more repetitive speech, or have to kneel beside Charlie to put the pegs in the Lite Brite board. Then Charlie is getting vexed and the air starts to crackle and pop. I hover, remind myself to smile, and become watchful as I did this evening.
Charlie had a 5.30pm speech session with a speech therapist we have only met one time before. That first session had been full of crying and some knocks and grabs and Charlie had already had a full day of school and an ABA session, and a long bike ride with Jim. Charlie walked into the speech room, took off hat and jacket, and placed his forehead on the table, then sat, hands in his lap. The speech therapist opened a word book, each of whose two-page spreads had a theme: The Park, the School, Transporation, Animals. Asked to identify object after object, Charlie responded mostly correctly, if wearily: "Swide. Bah'oon. Book! [of a newspaper]. Cake, birthday cake. Airp'ane. Bus [of a train]. Haht. Bue s'irt. I want hat." He took his fleece hat from my hand and pulled it so low over his forehead you would have thought he could not see. But he could, well enough to play a round of lotto and to mand "bubbles, open bubbles, I want, pAHp!"
After a long warm soak in the bathtub, Charlie gathered a green and a blue pillow, a football pillow from Danielle, and his green rabbit. "Inn dee ee-ehning!" he called as he set up his music player and smiled. He was soon asleep on my bed, wrapped tightly in his blue blanket, a green pillow by his head and a blue one at his feet.
"Charlie is happy."
"Charlie's face looks peaceful."
"Charlie says 'red schoolbus' calmly and cheerfully."
These are not quantifiable entities; they are not documentable via data. They are the surest sign we have of Charlie's success at home and school after the struggles Jim and I are still recovering from. More than demonstrating some remarkable skill in spelling or reading off every billboard on the Parkway, peace in Charlie's demeanor is simple evidence that he is on the path to a good year of learning and living.
Here's to wishing Charlie keeps that peaceful look and to a successful IEP meeting. It is so nice to read about how well your boy is doing!
Posted by: Eileen | 21 January 2006 at 05:43
I'm glad to hear that Charlie is doing great. I can also tell by the "look" of Gabe how he is doing. They are the subtle clues that I think most people would miss, but have saved me many days when I had to gauge my expectations.
Posted by: Kristin | 21 January 2006 at 07:24
A [moving] picture is worth a thousand words. It's the anthopologist in me...observations ARE data.
I don't know if you have a video camera, or how Charlie reacts to being video'ed. But if you have one, and he doesn't change behavior when being filmed, you could catch some snippets of "big-eyed Charlie" and "mouth-set Charlie" and show them to the IEP team, with your observations of differential frequency of the two states.
I hope you have come across Wrightslaw,
especially their book, From Emotions to Advocacy.
Posted by: Liz | 21 January 2006 at 10:51
I find peace to often be overlooked, subtle, yet relaible indicator that things are going right. Peaceful looks, peaceful IEP's, peaceful countries...
Glad Charlie has been looking peaceful.
Posted by: SquareGirl | 21 January 2006 at 18:27
Peace is currently our goal with our 10 year old. It's the lack of it that lead to changes in school program and the new school calling for a PPT already. Like Charlie, my 10 year old's face usually sports a positive attitude, representing his happiness and enthusiasm. I'm trying very hard to help him maintain that positive expression when little things go a wrong. As you know, it's slow work, but I see progress.
Posted by: Shawn | 22 January 2006 at 07:03